In a heart-wrenching end to the regular season, the women’s ice hockey team suffered two agonizingly close overtime defeats this weekend.
The Bulldogs (15-12-2, 10-10-2 ECACHL) fell at Harvard (21-6-2, 17-4-1), 4-3, on Friday after the Crimson came back from a 3-1 deficit, scoring twice in quick succession and sealing the victory with a power-play goal in overtime. The next day, the Elis headed up to Hanover and faced ECACHL leader Dartmouth (22-4-2, 20-1-1) only to take another tough loss. In a dispiriting repetition of the day before, the Big Green broke open a tied game and snatched the 3-2 overtime victory.
“This was probably the most heartbreaking weekend I have been a part of in the last six years,” head coach Hilary Witt said. “My kids played so hard and wanted those games so badly, and they were so disappointed.”
The Boston game had an unpromising start for the Bulldogs, as a blazing Harvard offense outshot the Elis 12-1 in the first period. But in spite of the onslaught, goaltender Shivon Zilis ’08 kept the Crimson scoreless, even when it meant taking a puck in the chest, as she did when Harvard Olympian Sarah Vaillancourt tried to get one past the Bulldogs’ netminder.
In the second, forward Kristin Savard ’07, assisted by Danielle Kozlowski ’09 and Mandi Schwartz ’10, put Yale on the board at 2:22. As Zilis continued her impenetrable defense on the Elis’ side of the ice, Kozlowski notched a goal of her own at 15:21, assisted by Schwartz and defender Carry Resor ’09. The period ended with the Bulldogs holding steady to their 2-0 lead.
It wasn’t until 3:54 into the third that Harvard finally got itself on the board. After a pileup in front of Yale’s goal, the Crimson got the long-awaited opportunity it needed to slip the puck past Zilis. Forward Crysti Howser ’09 took back the two-point lead five minutes later, but Harvard made it 3-2 and then 3-3 within a span of about two minutes. Neither team managed to score again before the final buzzer of regulation, but a Crimson power play 3:49 into overtime would spell disaster for the Elis. In just 15 seconds, Jenny Brine would become the fourth Cantab to find the back of the visitors’ net, delivering a tight 4-3 win to her team.
“The pivotal moment [was] after the first period because we had been nervous and sitting back, just surviving,” Schwartz said. “We knew we could play better and shouldn’t be scared, so in the second and third we played with more confidence. [I’m still] feeling disappointed, though. It hurts to lose in overtime because we worked so hard.”
Mirroring the day before, the Saturday game against Dartmouth remained scoreless until the second period, when the Big Green found the back of the net at 2:49. Howser replied eight minutes later with a power-play goal — her 21st of the season and the most for any Bulldog since 1988. The third period saw defender Helen Resor ’09 knock in a short-handed goal at 2:44, but Dartmouth tied it up less than three minutes later, throwing yet another game into overtime. And yet again, the extra five minutes proved to be the Elis’ undoing, as the Big Green slapped one more in at 2:58 to finish off the Bulldogs despite Zilis’s incredible 45-save performance.
“This weekend was a heartbreaker,” Helen Resor said. “Yes, it was great to play with those teams, but we can beat them, and coming close isn’t good enough anymore.”
The losses place Yale squarely in sixth place in the ECACHL, meaning the Bulldogs will travel back to Boston next weekend to face third-seeded Harvard in the three-game quarterfinal series. And with a little more discipline, they will be ready to win this time, Witt said.
“I think this team can go a long way in the playoffs,” she said. “We just have to bring that same effort we had this past weekend.”